So while Vicki and Judd are chugging their way through the burning hellscape, Vicki asks Judd if he's doing all this for her. Judd admits that he's partially doing it for her, but mostly for Howard and his mom. Yeah, because we all now what a great and powerful bond Judd has with Howard, so great that :record scratch:
Okay, I'm going to level with you. I said last week that I wasn't going to bother looking up Howard or trying to figure out at what point in the series DID HE AND JUDD EVEN EXCHANGE FIVE WORDS OF CONVERSATION WITH ONE ANOTHER, because I have too much worthless knowledge taking up valuable space in my brain. It's like I tell people: even though I studied Algebra in Middle School, High School, and two semesters in College, I would probably break out in a cold sweat if you asked me to solve a quadratic equation. However, if you asked me to hum the Dragon Dagger tune from Power Rangers, I'd be so on top of it. In light of my propensity to stockpile useless knowledge (and become desperate to regain it, should I forget it) and general laziness, I decided not to bother too much when it came to Howard.
But it just kept nagging at me, the question of "Did Howard ever appear in the series like Ellanjay say he did?" or "Did they just now insert him in order to pad out the series, but decided to claim he had totally appeared before but he hadn't and..." :steps outside to engage in a little scream therapy: I swear, it's stuff like this...I know Ellanjay are lazy, so lazy that calling them hacks is an insult to hacks everywhere, but still...I feel like I'm suffering from the more extreme version of laziness-induced madness as depicted in A, My Name is Alex.
In order to lessen the pain, let's make up a backstory for Howard. The beauty of this is since you know nothing about Howard and I know nothing about Howard (despite having read the damned series), we can assign whatever traits we want to him. You can give him the same haircut as the character of the same name on The Big Bang Theory. My theory is that he met Judd outside of a gay leather bar after he (Howard) was kicked out of his Hare Krishna sect for being too much of a fruitcake. Just know that if you decide to join me in the "Construct a Backstory for Howard" game, anything you come up with is true, no matter how much it contradicts anything anyone else comes up with. Therefore, Howard was also assassinated in a groghouse brawl during the 18th century while also simultaneously defeating Napoleon at Waterloo. :pauses to laugh evilly:
Okay, sorry for all that. As you probably guessed, I'm mostly indulging in this kind of incoherent ranting, because not a lot really happens in this chapter. Of course, there are attempts to build suspense, but even if I hadn't peaked ahead at the wiki and found out that three-fourths of the YTF survive, I probably still wouldn't feel anything for any of these characters. The only members of the YTF who have suffered consequences are Ryan (who is dead and no one really seems to care no matter how many times they occasionally mention his name) and Lionel (who lost an arm). Even Lionel's circumstances are debatable, given that when TurboJesus returns, this time packing heat, Lionel's arm magically regrows. So yeah, Lionel just has to put up with his handicap for a year or so. No lasting psychological scars or screaming PTSD in these books.
Anyway, Vicki and Judd go somewhere. I confess, I don't really care because Ellanjay clearly don't. Once again, showing their steadfast commitment to Death Before Showing The Reader What Actually Happened, they have Vicki narrate some more about how Judd has totally changed.
Vicki already noticed a change in the way Judd handled things. In the old days, he would have simply rushed inside without talking with anyone. He might have dismissed the idea of coming back altogether. But something had changed, and it made Vicki want to follow him inside.
Yeah, maybe it's the Howard-induced madness, but how exactly is what Judd is doing now different from what he'd done in the past? Spoiler alert: Basically Judd breaks one of the tinted windows in the building and goes inside and starts asking around about Howard. And, as you probably guessed, since Ellanjay know nothing about strategy, Judd does all this without doing the basic work that even a kindergartener would know to do: like trying to asses how many people are in the building and what kind of weapons or tech they have or even FINDING SOME COVER SO HE'LL BE PROTECTED WHILE HE BURSTS IN ON A BUNCH OF SCARED PEOPLE WHO ARE ARMED TO THE TEETH!
:deep breath: Okay, I know it is probably too much to ask Ellanjay to do any research on asymmetric or guerilla warfare. They probably subscribe to the same Rambo belief as many do on the Right that we totally could have won The Vietnam War were it not for those shiftless hippies! But what I'm talking about, I don't even think it falls under the category of asymmetric warfare; it's more like basic common sense: you should assess the situation before charging in, unless you like having multiple bullet wounds.
Oh and BTW, I'm not kidding about the whole "armed to the teeth" thing. As Vicki and Judd break in, it is established that the people inside are armed. Though they never actually use those weapons, even though they're freaking terrified and OUTSIDERS ARE BURSTING IN WITHOUT BOTHERING WITH SO MUCH AS A HELLO!
The people inside are established as wearing GC uniforms and are justifiably freaked out by Judd and Vicki walking around unharmed by the killer sunlight. Somehow even though one side has greater numbers and weapons (no points for guessing which side), it's that side that is all trembling and freaked out, begging them not to hurt them. Judd even manages to get them to hand over their guns, something which makes me headdesk. Yeah, I'm going to assume this is some kind of An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge scenario in that Judd and Vicki were shot full of lead as they entered and that all the derring-do afterwards, are fantasies they're having as their blood pours out on the floor around them. Though I suppose, I could stretch and somehow make the case that they actually died in disasters related to the Rapture and everything is a fantasy as they slowly die a distinctly unheroic death, but that may be going too far. Just know that no matter how much Ellanjay assert that Judd has totally changed!, I will continue to believe that if the Rapture hadn't happened, Judd probably would have gotten over his adolescence rebellion and wound up exactly like his parents anyway.
Anyway, they find Howard, who does have the Zod-Mark, so at least we're spared one repeat of the Overly Long Conversion Scene. At some point, gunfire breaks out, even though I thought Judd and Vicki took the GC's guns, but they all make it back to the Hippiemobile, but not before a display of the Sociopathic Behavior that has become the trademark in this series.
The car’s tires spun on the lawn when Judd pulled away. Vicki looked back to make sure no one was following them and noticed more smoke. Judd slowed long enough to see the roof of the library begin to curl. Windows on the upper floor of the building shattered, and smoke billowed. Vicki put her window down a little, then rolled it up when she heard people inside screaming.
BECAUSE IT'S ALL ABOUT YOU, VICKI! YOUR POOR DELICATE LITTLE EARS STRAINED BY ALL THAT OFF-KEY SCREAMING!
Yeah, it's like I said before, the Christian Right can assert all they like how they're totally heirs to the legacy of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, but I have a feeling that if they were somehow dropped at a village a few miles down from Auschwitz in the years between 1940-1945, the extent of their activism would involve praying that all those Jews somehow became good RTCs before being gassed, while complaining about the odor produced by the crematoriums.
I know, someone's going to call on my for invoking Godwin's Law, but I feel it's justified, given the Right's propensity for invoking Godwin's Law regarding any attempt to curtail their ability to get away with being hateful bigots without facing any consequences (legal or financial) for it.
My main objection, regarding Hitler analogies, is that, y'know, there are other hateful dictators just in the 20th century alone that you can invoke. Why limit yourself to Hitler analogies? Just for once I want someone to invoke Pol Pot. I would suggest Augusto Pinochet or Idi Amin as well, but given the US's role in backing them in the first place, you can understand why those analogies will probably never catch on.
Anyway, so Judd and Vicki and Howard are speeding away, trying to catch up with Westin. Vicki asks Howard why he separated himself from the rest of the group and Howard gives this weaksauce explanation:
“Our leader told us to stay together, but I got fed up with all the rules. I went into one of those study rooms, and when I woke up the GC had moved in. I tried to slip out last night, but I got scared.”
Of course, Ellanjay never bothers to explain just which of the rules Howard objected to, because that would actually provide insight into his character. Plus, if they gave Howard a legitimate complaint, they would be force to admit that :gasp: :choke: sometimes those at the top of their hierarchy make mistakes and they can't have that! So in order to liven up this story and keep this "Construct a Backstory for Howard" game going, I'm going to just assume that Howard's diamond-studded codpiece was making the other members of the group feel inadequate in comparison. And by codpiece, I mean this Codpiece.
I suppose I should apologize for foisting that link on you, but I don't think I will.
Judd, being a good RTC who knows that if you ever disagree with the RTC hierarchy, it means that you are wrong, says, "You should have listened to your leader."
Judd picks up his cell phone to call Westin, but the call doesn't go through. Howard then says something that makes me want to do The Invasion of the Body-Snatchers Scream. He says that a lot of the cell phone towers are down, making it difficult for calls to go through. But that can't be right! Ellanjay have demonstrated that cell phones require no infrastructure to maintain and will never go down no matter how many Acts of God occur back to back. So why aren't they working now?!
My guess is either somebody clued Ellanjay in that cell phones, y'know, need towers and an infrastructure to maintain their service, but given how thoroughly they've surrounded themselves with Yes Men, inside a nice criticism-proof bubble, I'll think it's unlikely that someone would venture to tell them that. So I'll once again open the floor to outlandish theories. Mine is either Howard has a jammer on him or that since I see him as basically Florida Man on steroids, I'm going to assume that Howard is Inevitable. He is the Heat Death and the Entropy of the Universe, He is the End to All Things.
Yeah, I know I've beat this joke into the ground, but consider it a combination of trying to keep the madness somewhat at bay and create a more interesting story.
The sun is fading and since, the GC can only move at night, Judd and Vicki and Howard are forced to take shelter in a parking garage, feasting on some sandwiches and candy bars that somehow weren't burned up or melted by all the heat.
The chapter ends with Howard bowing his head and doing the obligatory "O God, thank you for sending these Main Characters to save my life. Please forgive me for being so hard-headed as to think of myself as a person with thoughts and agency like everyone else. And please let Vicki and Judd make it back to their friends safely, seeing that as Main Characters, their lives matter above all others in this universe."
I admit that I am exaggerating Howard's prayer for comedic effect, but really it's not by much. I often wonder if when Ellanjay will a new character into being, they give said character, a name, a half-filled outline, and of course, they make sure that every character knows that their duty is to serve as a backdrop for the exciting adventures of St. Rayford and Our Buck. And that they can never hope to have any adventures or goals apart from the Main Cast. Because having a desire to do anything beyond rack up converts and sit and wait for TurboJesus to come in on air support, is sick and wrong.
And that's it for this week. I read ahead and they do have a chapter where Howard finally tells us about himself, allowing Ellanjay to do the obligatory "How I came to Love Big Brother" speech. As you guessed, their backstory for Howard is considerably less interesting than any of the ones I've come up with, so I'm going to stick with my version. Because I am totally in favor of Discontinuity, especially when the Canon is so awful, like it is in this series.
And now I'm going to close us out with some tangentially related music.